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Old & New Playwrights Headed To Our Town
by Allan Appel | Aug 8, 2013 11:24 am
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Theater
A new playwright leaned over a large vase of day lilies. He took a look at the manuscript of his play held in the hands of an actor. The actor had marked up the script, as actors will do, with lime-yellow highlighter. They were about to begin.
“That’s crap,” the playwright said, pointing to one section. He was joking, of course. Or was he?
Welcome to a workshop reading of The Magician, a tempestuous play about a drunken magician and his even more drunken manager as they prepare for a show at a threadbare Las Vegas casino lounge.
It’s a work by fledgling playwright Drew Gray. And it was part of a production meeting of the scrappy and peripatetic New Haven Theater Company convened the other night at borrowed offices in the 85 Willow St. former Marlin Firearms complex.
Gray’s play, along with another one-act, A Tall Hill, A Warm Day, will be presented at a formal staged reading by the NHTC this Thursday evening at the Luck and Levity Brewshop at 118 Court St. It starts at 7:30, and it’s free. If all goes well, NHTC will do a full production next February.
It will be the first time the company—primarily actors and directors—has embraced a playwright and committed to launching his work.
Here’s a selection provided by Gray from midway through the first act:
Ronnie:You were never a kid like me. You were that 7 year old on Carson; now you are this guy. Come to think of it I wouldn’t believe you were the 7 year old if I didn’t have a box of the old DVDs for the merch table.
Mark: I am sorry, I forgot you are still working on some base concepts. Let me help you along. When I put that bottle back in the drawer the bottle doesn’t actually cease to exist and disappear.
Ronnie: That’s just because you are a shit magician. (laughs)
Mark: Now who is the fucking comedian?
Ronnie: I don’t give a fuck if the bottle disappears when it is in the drawer, because if it is in the drawer, I can’t fucking drink it, so it’s fucking disappeared to me. I don’t give shit where it is or isn’t. Ergo sum Mark, I bet you didn’t know I knew fancy Greek phrases like that?
Mark: It’s Latin.
“It’s the kind of work we’re good at,” said Steve Scarpa, a longtime NHTC member whose day job is directing communications and public relations at the Long Wharf Theater.
Scarpa was referring to the rapid-fire, staccato, in-your-face banter that characterizes Gray’s dialogue.
The NHTC company did a bravura job with such banter during its well-received productions of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow and before that Glengarry_Glen_Ross>Glengarry Glen Ross.
Gray wrote plays as a student at Bard College; he launched his creative life as an indie rock musician in San Francisco. So he brings music and its rhythms to his writing.
He characterized his shorter play A Tall Hill, A Warm Day as a kind of minuet. As to the musical correlative for his The Magician—about a couple of lounge lizards, who are also struggling with managing the death of a relative while one of them is performing on stage—Gray said the play sounds like “lounge performers, casino music, with re-verb, and echo effects.”
For translation, he suggested we check out Juan Garcia Esquivel’s “Space Age Bachelor Pad” music.
Our Town Coming to Our Town
In other NHTC news, Scarpa said the company will stage local-boy-made-great Thornton Wilder‘s Our Town the last two weekends of September.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the iconic drama. Scarpa, who wrote an appreciation of Wilder and his play recently for the Arts Paper, did not want to let it go unmarked on a local stage.
Scarpa said the production is going to adhere to the magical and mythical take that Wilder had on his own play, and which Scarpa discovered in his research of the Wilder papers at the Beinecke Rare Book Library. Not sentimental and saccharine as the iconic play can often come across, especially in high schoolish productions, but rather as Wilder viewed the work.
Or as Scarpa paraphrased the playwright: Looking at a little village from the perspective of the stars.
For starters, the stage manager will be a woman, company member Megan Chenot.
Scarpa will direct, and the set and costumes are being designed by the multi-talented new company member Drew Gray.
No word yet on whether NHTC’s Our Town will be accompanied by lounge lizard vibes or bachelor pad music. There’s an idea.
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